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Rachel looks serious while addressing the media in a grey pantsuit.

Authorities have urged Canberrans to wait in line after an unknown number of “opportunistic” people received COVID-19 vaccinations for which they were ineligible.

Key points:

  • An unknown number of ineligible Canberrans received a Pfizer shot on the weekend
  • ACT authorities say they are trying to ensure that essential workers and people with vulnerable ailments are vaccinated first
  • ACT Health says text messages are being shared in the community which wrongly advise that anyone can receive a shot if an appointment is cancelled

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said a “handful of people” booked in for a Pfizer shot over the long weekend, encouraged by false rumours that unused vaccines were going to waste.

The incident provoked an angry response on social media, where people accused the ineligible vaccine recipients of “jumping the queue” and delaying shots for those in need.

The ACT government is currently vaccinating only those Canberrans who are categorised as high priority: healthcare and other essential workers, and people with ailments that make them more vulnerable to the respiratory disease.

ACT Health issued a statement today saying it was aware that text messages had been shared in the community wrongly advising that anyone could book a vaccination because some people did not show up to appointments.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the COVID-19 Surge Centre in Garran, which is administering the ACT’s Pfizer vaccines, was neither wasting doses nor accepting “walk-ins”.

The minister said health staff checked the eligibility of anyone who called the centre and would not allow lower-priority Canberrans to be vaccinated before others.

However, she said she did not believe that those who had slipped through the checks had acted dishonestly.

“People were acting on advice that, even though it wasn’t from the ACT government, wasn’t accurate,” she said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said people occasionally had to cancel their vaccine appointments due to illness or, in the case of the long weekend, a sudden change in availability.

When that happened, ACT Health tried to provide the shots to other high-priority Canberrans.

“We do work very hard not to waste any vaccinations [and] that means we sometimes take the opportunity to vaccinate people who might not be eligible, but that’s [often] carers who arrived with someone who’s eligible,” the minister said.

“It is really important that we minimise wastage of vaccines as they are a very precious resource, but at this point in time we are not needing [replacement bookings].”

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